Reflect – Make an Impact

Video of the completed product: Lighted Hand-cranked Spinning Toy Figurine

My project, the Lighted Hand-cranked Spinning Toy Figurine is a Chinese-New-Year themed decorative device that has spinning gears and cranks and lighting systems that light up the lanterns. This device both transfers and converts energy. For the hand-crank and gear part, energy transfer is demonstrated. Kinetic mechanical energy is transferred through the hand of the user to the crank, and to the gears, letting the figurine to spin. Throughout this process, thermal energy and sound energy is lost through friction. If the crank always touches the gears at the top, then energy will be smoothly transferred to the gears and to the figurine. At the back of the device, energy converting is demonstrated. Solar radiation is received by the solar panels and is transformed into electrical energy. Then electrical energy is transferred to the LED lamps through the wire. The electrical energy then is converted into light energy in the lamps. Throughout this process, thermal energy is lost. Therefore, overall, my device works well.

During the production of the product, I was successful in the part of the lighting part. The lights light up well when the solar panels face the sun, and the hand crank turns well 95% of the times. The measurements were also all well done, which allowed me to assemble everything in a neat way. The physical appearance of this device looks aesthetically appealing too. The energy transfer was well demonstrated. Overall, this product meets most of my expectations.

The areas that I need to improve in the product will be to correct the hand crank. Because the hand crank does not touch the top big gear when placed in a specific angle, the result is that it doesn’t work occasionally. The solution to that would be to put a barrier to stop it from tipping to that angle. However, because of the time limit, I wasn’t able to perfect this area. If I had the chance to redo this project, I would certainly change this part.

This project was a challenge to me, however, both the project and my goal was well accomplished. This device functioned well overall, which met my expectations.

After surveying users, they found this device aesthetically appealing. The pig is neatly painted, and the wooden pieces are all cut in straight lines.

My project also has its purpose – for the upcoming Chinese New Year. Red curtains, red clothes are all symbolic to the Chinese New Year. Since the New Year will be the year of the pig, I created a pig figure. Potential clients might be those who would like to decorate their room with festive decorations for the upcoming Chinese New Year.

This toy can be easily played with and doesn’t have any potential safety hazards like opening flames. All of the electrical systems are at the back of the device, which users would barely come in contact with. This toy would be safe for the user. Also, all wooden pieces are polished with sandpaper, which prevents sharp edges from harming the skin of fingers.

Also, this device is environmentally friendly. I chose to use solar panels instead of batteries because they support the environment, isn’t energy consuming, and they are safer.

Put together all with strong adhesives, this product is also durable because it is strong and doesn’t break easily. At the back are solar panels that provide electricity for the lamps, this helps to show that this device uses renewable energy source (solar power).

Because the idea of this device was all designed by me, this product is also completely original.

Overall, throughout this project, I have completed the Define and Inquire, Develop and Plan, Create and Improve, and lastly, Reflect. I have also followed the creating cycle. I have completed Define and Inquire, Develop and Plan, Create and Improve, along with sharing, critiquing, and making an impact. In the experience of making this device, not only did I learned these skills, but I also experienced in using different tools. Despite that occasionally the hand crank wouldn’t function as well, this project still met my goal of creating a decorative toy for the upcoming Chinese festival. Inspired by the fact of it will be the year of the pig, I decided to make a pig figurine. Happy early Chinese New Year!

Create and Improve


Because of the complicated process of creating this machine and the limited time, I chose to do one prototype as my final prototype, and I was testing the materials along

Day 1

According to the plan, the pig is cut out, and the body of the machine is made. A circular base was also made.

Improvement #1:

One problem arose – the lack of a Pringles can. I decided to make the body out of 8 slits of wood and sticking them together. It was an octagonal shape because I thought if I cut fewer slits of wood, the number of corners the shape would have would be lesser, which, even though the size of the shape is the same, the inner area would be smaller (shown in the picture below). For example, if the shape was a pentagon, more space would be wasted in the vertex areas, and the total space for utilization would be minimal. However, as the corners increased, the degree of each corner also increased, and the shape is closer to a circle, fitting the gears better. I wanted a larger inner area so that I can fit the gears inside that would help the figurine on top to spin. I also decided not to paint the body for two reasons: a) Because making the body using slits of wood was way more time consuming than just taking a Pringles can, I didn’t have enough time; b) The body looks more aesthetically pleasing with a natural wood color instead of great areas of colored parts.


Day 2

As planned, I was able to paint the pig during the afternoon session, and I started working with the crank. Here is a picture of the gathered gear materials.

Since I only had one prototype, I had to be careful when assembling the gears to make them work. I tested it along building it. The gears worked like this:

This is the completed painted pig:

Improvement #2:

There were three gears needed. The one in the very bottom worked as a base, and the one on the top worked as the main device that helped the figurine spin since the figurine will be attached to it. The top gear spins while the bottom one doesn’t, it is glued to the base of the machine and acts as a base. The smallest one, also the one that the user would spin with using a crank, had a problem at first. The problem was that the distance between the top and bottom gears were too far apart, causing the crank to be at the very top, and wasn’t stable enough. This is shown in the following picture. 

But this problem was soon tackled as the design improved. I cut a short piece of wood, the shape looks like a long cylinder. This piece of wood was placed on top of the crank and attached to the body with a glue gun to stabilize the crank. This greatly helped the crank to spin correctly, however, if it is not spun in the right angle, the spinning occasionally might not be smooth.

Day 3

Today the gears were finished, and a circular wooden base is attached to the top gear. This wooden base works to hide the gears, which makes this device more aesthetically pleasing. And I was ready to attach the figurine, which is the painted pig onto this base.

Improvement #3:

Another problem soon arose as I was attaching the painted pig onto the base, however, because the painted pig was on a very thin piece of wood, I was afraid if the spinning movements were too violent, because of momentum and friction to the air, eventually the attachment might fall off. To solve this problem, I placed another wooden piece that was cut in half to place between the base and the figurine. With this semi-circle, there are larger areas of contact with the base, and therefore there is more friction, which stabilizes the attachment.


And finally, the crank-gear-figurine part was accomplished.

Click here for the video of prototype testing

Day 4

According to the schedule, I was supposed to complete the part with LED lights. The decorative parts were soon made.

Improvement #4

I was going to put two LED lamps behind the painted pig. First, I had to choose the correct LED lamp size. I wanted the light to be as big as possible because the bigger, the lighter it will be, however, I was afraid that the energy from solar radiation wasn’t enough. After several trial and errors, I finally found that unless directly facing the sun, the bigger LED lamp wouldn’t light up as bright. And because of the fact that it will be impossible if the device will always be directly facing the sun, I finally chose to use the smaller light. 

Improvement #5

The problem that arose today was the hardest problem to solve throughout the entire project. At first, I only wanted to use one solar panel to generate power for two LED lamps, because it was the designated design of my project. With the help of teachers, I was taught that by putting wires on each lamp, to make a circuit, shown in the diagram below.

However, after checking that I assembled them with the correct way with the correct negative and positives combinations, the lights wouldn’t light up. After testing, we found that each LED lamp uses 1.7 units of energy. The conclusion was made, the solar panel cannot provide enough power to light up both lamps. And at last, after many complicated ways of trying to solve the problem, the easiest solution was finally used – using two solar panels. And at last the LED lamps lit up brighter even when the solar panels are not directly faced with solar radiation.



Throughout the process of creating the device, the device was tested by users.

Feedback from a user (Lynn): From Annie’s toy, the process of energy conversion is easily observable since it requires direct interaction from the user. By turning the handle, the user can identify the conversion process as chemical energy (from the user moving their body) to mechanical energy to kinetic energy of the spinning figuirine. This toy also uses renewable energy from solar panels to power lighting, which displays the energy conversion process of light energy to electrical energy. Overall, the design of this toy is extremely creative and it seems durable as well! 

User 2: I think this is a rather well-done device, areas of improvement might be to improve the gears and crank, because occasionally if not pushed in, the gears might not spin. However, in the majority of the times, the gears turn very well! Overall, this is very creative!

I do think there are other areas that I can perfect with my device, for example perfecting the cranking part. In the stage of Create and Improve, I have recorded and reflect on the process of each of the four days, and additional photos and videos were taken to assist my reflection. 5 improvements of the device were also shown, and I have received feedback from users. Overall, in the stage of Create and Improve, I have learned problem-solving skills, creating prototypes (testing along), test using criteria, gather feedback from users, optimitze/refine design.

Develop and Plan

Modeling of Idea


Material list

  • empty, clean pringles cup
  • lantern (red tissue paper, threads)
  • red fabric
  • wood pieces
  • wood sticks
  • gears in two sizes
  • solar panel
  • 1 5mm(or bigger) red LED light
  • wires
  • glue gun
  • wood glue
  • acrylic paint

plan for time


  • gather materials
  • cut pringles can
  • paint pringles can
  • cut out pig


  • paint pig
  • work with gears


  • draw out the details of the pig
  • make crank
  • finish gears


  • assemble the solar panel, LED light, and lanterns

Define and Inquire


What is this engineering task?

This engineering task is mainly about creating a gadget that converts energy, or transfers energy, or converts renewable energy source to electrical energy, or helps people learn about physics. It should show energy transfer, be aesthetically pleasing, has a purpose or client that this project serves for, is original, does not impact on the environment greatly, and durable and safe for the client and user.

Potential projects

For my own project, the following are a few brainstormed ideas that would reach the goal of this project.

Potential Project #1: A lamp that depicts a scene of the holiday, lights will be used. This device will transform electrical energy to light energy using a renewable energy source so that  will be durable and environmentally friendly. This project will mainly target families, it will serve great as a decorative device. This project will be great for those who would like to have some holiday atmosphere in their home by using my decoration. This project will be original because all of the designs of this device will be designed by myself.  Some constraints are that I will not have enough materials and time for this project.

Potential Project #2: A device that has a spinning tip to clean the gaps of keys on a keyboard of a computer. This device will transform electrical energy into mechanical energy, as the tip of it spins to scrape off dirty bits stuck in between keyboards. This will be environmentally friendly and durable, and safe. This project will mainly target students and teachers, it will serve great as a cleaning device for people with computers and want to give their computers deep cleansing often. This will also be original since I came up with the idea. However, this might be technically hard to make, materials will be hard to find too. The tip, made by a motor, will also be a safety constraint.


Examples of Projects Others Have Made

Flappy Bird:

click here for the video:


  • This toy acts like the real game on an electronic device
  • Really purposeful and challenging
  • Fun to play
  • Demonstrates high skills of engineering and usage of electric energy


  • Way too complicated
  • Not enough materials and knowledge to construct
  • Materials are too complicated

Overall comment

  • This toy seems to be very cool, however, because of its great difficulty to construct, really creating one with limited resources doesn’t seem feasible.


A with elastic potential energy:

Click here for the video:


  • Demonstrates the usage of elastic potential energy
  • Easy to make
  • Materials are easy to work


  • Not aesthetic
  • Simple to make
  • Not challenging
  • Has no direct and interesting purpose

Overall Comments:

  • This toy might be great for teaching physics especially about elastic potential energy, however it is not challenging. Maybe making the appearance of it fancier will make it a better project to create.

Simone Giertz’s “useless” robots

Click here for the video:


  • Funny, fun to make


  • Useless, maybe hard to make

Overall Comments:

  • One of the best designs that I like is this applauding machine. It is actually funny and purposeful in a humorous, joking way. Imagine going to a concert and lazy to clap with your hands! This would help. However, it might be hard to turn electric to machine using wires and motors, but it would be a great challenge for me.

Spinning lamp with house decorations

Click here to view video


  • A great idea
  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Beautiful and purposeful (It would be easy to find a client)
  • Durable


  • Materials might not be enough
  • (If I recreated this project) it wouldn’t be original
  • I might not be able to recreate something as delicate and detailed as this project

Overall Comment:

  • Overall, this project seems to be very beautiful. Although the decorations seems hard to make, the mechanics of science behind it seems to be a pretty medium level. This would be a great project to make, as it defines energy transformation (electrical energy to light energy)

Moon lamp

click here for the video


  • Aesthetically appealing
  • Shows energy transfer (electric to light)
  • Beautiful and has a purpose (for lighting)
  • Safe


  • The process of making it beautiful is time-consuming
  • Materials might not be sufficient
  • Not something that I designed.
  • Not environmentally friendly

Overall Comment:

  • Overall, this seems to be a purposeful and safe project. It also fully demonstrates energy transform and transfer. However, this requires electrical energy, however, it would be difficult to take the renewable source and make it to electrical energy, which, if failed, it would not be environmentally friendly. It is also not a good device for students to learn about physics.


Click here for the video

  • This is a tutorial of how to make gears to help with my project